After weighing more than 500 pounds in 2013, Springfield resident Todd Comer has lost more than 300 pounds.

Clark County ranks in bottom quarter of Ohio counties for health

The county ranked 70th among Ohio’s 88 counties in the ninth annual County Health Rankings report released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The rankings are an easy-to-use snapshot comparing the health of nearly every county in the nation.

SPECIAL REPORT: Healthy Springfield

The ranking is based on health outcomes, which measures both length and quality of life. Last year, Clark County ranked 73rd in health outcomes, a year after its best-ever ranking of 67 in 2016. Over the last eight years, the county has averaged a ranking of about 71, data said.

“If all of the counties are working hard to make their people healthier and everybody makes the same increase, we’re going to stay the same,” Clark County Health Commissioner Charles Patterson said. “Something amazing has to happen in Clark County to really jump us forward and we haven’t found the magic formula that we can go ‘poof’ and make something amazing happen.”

However, Clark County dropped on its health factors ranking, falling to 69 in 2017. A year ago, the county ranked 61st in Ohio for the measure that looks at health behaviors, clinical care, physical environment, and social and economic factors.

Beth Neville, a nurse at the Rocking Horse Center, takes Melissa Pope’s temperature during her visit Thursday. BILL LACKEY/STAFF
Photo: Staff Writer

The drop in health factors is concerning, Patterson said. More funding is being focused on moving that needle, he said.

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“We really have to go back to the drawing board, not just with our staff but with the public and with our partners to figure out what else we can do,” Patterson said. “With all of these people focusing on it, we have to move the needle.”

Champaign County fell two spots to 37th for health outcomes, a year after ranking 35th. It ranked 30th in health factors in both 2017 and 2018.

The data show several areas where Clark County has struggled in recent years, including premature death, adult obesity, sexual-transmitted infections, diabetes monitoring, mammography screening and child poverty. All of those categories are trending worse than the state and national trends, the report says.

The health outcomes ranking will likely go down in coming years, Patterson said. More than 180 drug overdose deaths over the past two years will likely bring the county’s length of life measurement down — and that’s before adding in other local health issues, such as obesity and smoking, he said.

The most recent Community Health Improvement Plan used data from the County Health Rankings to target areas where the community can improve, Patterson said. The plan’s progress is tracked every six months.

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“We’re never happy with our ranking and we always strive to be better,” he said.

Data used for the most recent rankings was broken down by race and ethnicity, said Christina Conover, manager of accreditation and emergency preparedness for the Clark County health district. It showed disparities in several categories for African-Americans, including premature death and low birth weight, she said.

“That was sobering because there are a lot of these indicators that there is a huge disparity noted,” she said. “When we’re doing our assessments, we need to be more intentional. We need to go down to various diversities and make sure on the program planning side that we’re getting input from our community. Clearly, we need help and input from the community.”

An influx of new jobs from both Topre America and Silfex will mean better health locally, Patterson said. Those jobs also likely will increase wages at other local companies, he said. The social and economic factor makes up about 40 percent of the overall health factors ranking, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“Economic status and health are directly tied together,” Patterson said. “Health care is so expensive to get your own that you need to have that as part of your employment package if at all possibly.”

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